Bad boys united as women pitch in

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

First came all-seater stadiums, then came Nick Hornby's best-seller Fever Pitch and Fantasy Football League, and yesterday conclusive proof arrived that football is reaching out beyond its traditional base in the male working classes.

According to a survey, the number of women watching Premiership football matches has grown rapidly in the past five years and one in four of those who have become regular spectators since the change to all-seater stadiums are female. That suggests women's commitment to the game has doubled recently, given the widely accepted earlier estimate that one in eight fans were female.

There were 2,000 women among the 15,170 fans who responded to a detailed questionnaire in what was the biggest exercise of its kind in the British game. The findings, to be published in full next week, create a picture of a new woman spectator who is happier with the comfort of all-seater stadiums and more secure in an environment that has become less scarred by hooliganism in recent years.

John Williams, who has collated the findings at the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research in Leicester, believes that many women turned to the game during the 1990 World Cup finals, where England's image was transformed as the hooligans faded away and Gascoigne and Co turned on the style - and the tears.

The findings were described as "very encouraging" by a Premier League spokesman. (Graphic omitted)

Sexual revolution, page 22

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